Lamarius Martin, a longtime starter with the Seahawks varsity boys basketball team, sat in the bleachers at the Nest during Saturday’s home opener against Leon.
It wasn’t because he was benched and it wasn’t because he was injured. A few weeks ago he transferred to arch-rival Port St. Joe, where he already is among the Tiger Sharks’ leading scorers.
After the game he came by the bench to congratulate his former Seahawk backcourt partner Eden Brathwaite.
"We’re coming for you," said Principal Michael Sneed.
Martin’s absence didn’t thwart the Seahawk performance Saturday, as Franklin County came back in the fourth quarter to surprise Leon 51-48, for their third win in a row.
"We knew they were going to be tough," said Coach Kameron Ashabranner. "The main thing we were focusing on was outrebounding them and everybody played their part."
With less than a minute left, sophomore Carter Kembro, who finished the game with 14 points and 16 rebounds, stepped to the line and coolly sank a pair of free throw, to put the Hawks up 49-44.
Leon missed a three-point try, Kembro snatched the rebound, and senior Ayden Pearson was called for the foul. Leon made one of two from the charity stripe, and the lead was four.
The Seahawks then managed to break the press but threw the ball out of bounds with about 17 seconds left.
A Leon trey cut the lead to one, but junior Eden Brathwaite was fouled on the inbounds pass, and while he didn’t make his free throws, Leon couldn’t capitalize on their possession.
A foul on senior Grady Escobar led to him sinking both, and the game ended.
Ashabranner said a key to victory was the play of his team on the boards, with Pearson snaring eight, and Escobar and Brathwaite each six. "Across the board we crashed really hard," he said.
Brathwaite led the team with 20 points, after getting in foul trouble in the first half.
"I told them we need to slow the game down and make them play our basketball, to come guard us and in the second half we did exactly that," said Ashbranner.
He said the team achieved the team’s goal of keeping their opponents under 55 points, and got close to meeting expectations of committing no more than 10 turnovers a game.
"Overall I thought we handled the pressure really well," he said.
Ashabranner said he would like to see improvement in both shooting percentage, which actually was a decent 53 percent from the field, and with free throws, a less than impressive 20 for 33. "That’s 13 points right there we could have been ahead," he said.
The coach said he liked what he saw in the effort of Pearson, senior Keondre Sewell and sophomore Jerymiah Stephens.
"Keondre came in and played an excellent game," said Ashabranner. "He hasn’t seen a lot of minutes in our two previous games.
"Ayden is our motor, he’s the catalyst. He has grit, he has ‘dog,’" said the coach. "He gets the guys motivated and ready to play. We would not have beaten that team without Ayden."
As for the team’s future, Ashabranner said Martin’s departure will hurt in the short run, but won’t be a factor in the long.
"It affects our depth," he said. "That’s where that hurts us; we don’t have that depth right now. But we’re going to have it by the end of the season.
"Right away early it hurts us because we were counting on him," said Ashabranner. "By January we’re going to have playing guards."
Key to that retooling will be the play of team-leader Brathwaite.
"A good point guard can play great defense and not foul. Eden kind of made some silly mistakes there at the beginning," said the coach.
"I told him now you’re going to have to show you’re an experienced point guard and that you’re mature enough to play the game," Ashabranner said. "We’re going to be fine.
"I’m here at Franklin to coach the kids that are here. That’s all I’m worried about," he said. "I’ll develop the young ones and I’ll develop the experienced ones and we’re going to be the best we can be."